Tolkien Gateway

Letter 194

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 194
RecipientTerence Tiller
Date6 November 1956
Subject(s)Disagreeing with the manner of presenting The Lord of the Rings on radio

Letter 194 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien had made two rapid readings of three episodes sent to him by Tiller and decided to make some comments before it was too late. He did not offer criticism in detail and wished Tiller's effort success.

However, as a private conversation Tolkien wanted to know why his book was being treated the way it was. He believed that listeners who had not read the book would not be able to grasp what was going on. The text, in Tolkien's opinion, had been reduced to simple-minded terms. The book was unsuitable for dramatic representation unless it had a lot of space. If the space was unavailable, why not turn it down?

While Tolkien was flattered and pleased by the attention to the book, he asked why present it in this form? The older art of reading would have been better than drama, with an emphasis on dialogue with the settings removed. Tolkien called attention to two points: The corpse-candles episode had been cut to ineffectiveness and Gollum's near repentance had nearly disappeared. Both the scenery and the characters had become flat. A narrator would have been more interesting to listeners and fairer to the author.

Tolkien admitted a lack of experience in the medium. He was not criticizing Tiller's text but sighing for something different. But can a tale told epically be successfully recast as a drama?